I heard: the whisper of his spine grinding
against the wall, egg-shell, bare.
My skeleton fingers held him steady
my ear caught his pink lungs tremble
the collision left a mark, the ridges of him
scratching the plaster, what should have been
enough. I am greedy, and his hot song-breath
left condensation along my chapped January lips
while any recognition of the way things would be different,
after, I swallowed. I found myself licking off traces
of the story his tongue wrote along my mouth,
salty and cynical. And then he was embedded in me,
inside the millions of tiny chambers that form a whole
real, breathing thing, with thin skin boasting a tie-dye
of purple, green, braided veins and blood flowing
suspiciously underneath. Usually all too aware
of what is transpiring on every inch of me,
I now can only feel where his calloused fingertips
last touched, chilly along my sharp angles,
calling up goosebumps, smelling of orange peels
and that backwoods bar. “Two Hail Marys’ and a
good night’s sleep should do the trick,” he says.
you are purple-lipped and poisoned
the shape of your sleep kept steady
by white coats and tubed tentacles.
the resident runs a hot finger tip
along your lashes: writing you off.
by habit I remain silently trembling
smelling of still frosted lawns and
the salt from the sidewalks. your
first-born is melting: unsatisfied,
and the ends of her chocolate hair
splitting with defeat. I should have,
but I didn’t. the sacrifices you made.
the purple wine with the bitten straw
hiding under the bathroom sink. I
don’t blame you. the stiff linen bites
at your legs, your mechanical breath
taunting me: this is what the end is.
and when I should be painting to my
memory the remaining colors of you,
I think of all of the porcelain in your
mouth exploding like firecrackers
when they push your lukewarm corpse
into the embrace of persistent flames.
How to Converse in a Bar
Begin with liquor: swallow, repeat. Pout your lips in a way that suggests you wear sundresses, but you don’t. Arrange your features accordingly: saucer-like eyes, genuine cheeks. Do something with your hands. Cross, then uncross your legs, allow designer drugged irises to unwrap you. Draw attention to your mouth: refrain from words. Nod encouragingly. Stop thinking. Hook your heels to the base of the barstool to ease your nervous sway. Focus on the sole bead of chilly sweat descending from his brow, past ridges and valleys unfamiliar, hanging neatly off his hard chin, and then. Use the length of your neck to steer him away from mentions of Joyce and his empty guitar case and that one time. Agree to disagree. Avoid inhaling the stale traces of finance laced with heavy wristwatch; the nape of his lying neck inevitably smelling of lunchtime gin blossoms. Let your breath tetris-stack in your chest, you’ll need it later. Keep your raw sentiments at bay or this won’t work. Proceed without caution: you will not know his stubble, a rogue freckle. This will not see flickers of a too-bright morning. Wait for a break in the well-worn soliloquy, between the start-up and the generic childhood anecdote. Touch his arm, in the lonely stretch between shirt cuff and manicured hand. Excuse yourself hungrily, without debutant grace. Accept defeat, or victory, as icy air overwhelms your lungs.
So virginal, this numbness, haloing him.
He had hungrily unlocked another door
and turned away from her, his antagonist,
fishing for the handgun in the bedroom drawer.
A proper drought had settled: unanticipated,
like a suicide with no first cry, no note.
And it’s new, this unconsciousness. The fervor
that had crept to the surface of him yesterday; it has gone
Like the compliance of the cropland, it fails,
and buries what he might have seen: his assassin
chambering bullets two at a time
like communion dropped into eager mouths.
Still, in one bed he was plenty more than a body
and her servant. Black safety of the closed quiet,
she was never quiet. He twice cries out for the road.
I’ve been here.
The cold flush, the slow jazz
dance around parting lips,
the metallic remains. The fear
comes and goes. We take the shape
of one and then another, swallowing
promises that have pitched tents under
salted skin. Dust settles. Outside:
citrus hangs thick in stagnant air.
We wrestle with privilege; gunshots
audible only when it serves a purpose.
We have yet to see the other side.
“Wake up,” he says, nudging a
foreign body. Lights, three-point,
hang over naked sky. Lazy eyes bleed
through hot glass to trace the outline
of a girl, painted and pink,
too young to know concrete.
Marquesa Rotuski is a Philadelphia-born freelance writer currently residing in Seattle, Washington.